Europe – Part 3

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Ephesus library; Ephesus, Turkey

“Just go.” – Anonymous

Okay, so you’ve decided you want to travel and see the world. Whether this is just a dream (for now), or a commitment you’ve made, here are some practical tips and fun suggestions that helped me when I was preparing for my big trip.

Questions to ask yourself (part of the planning and prep stage):

  1. Who will I go with? (solo or with a friend/group of friends)
  2. What will I be doing? (get your itinerary ready ahead of time)
  3. Where will I travel to? (name the countries you will visit)
  4. When will I go on this awesome trip? (warmest months to go, high/low season)
  5. Why do I want to travel? (what’s my purpose)
  6. How am I travelling? (tour group, backpacking etc)

“The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready.” – Henry David Thoreau

Essentials for the trip:

– Passport (check to make sure yours isn’t up for renewal, as passports expire every 5 years, and that it will be valid for the entire length of your trip – I had to get mine renewed)
– Visa’s (bring these if needed)
– Immunization shots (there’s a great clinic I went to over in the Market Mall Professional building, called Odyssey Travel & Tropical Medicine Clinic; it was a great deal and got me all the necessary shots I needed & the people there were great)
– Healthcare coverage (I got mine through AMA and the travel agency I went through)
– Go to your bank and convert your money to the currency you’ll be travelling so you will have money when you land in that country (I would recommend going to your bank 2-3 weeks ahead of your departure date to get all the bills and coins you need)

As a heads up, the best time to travel Europe, according to European expert, Rick Steves, is May, June, and September as the weather is still warm but not scorching hot and humid.

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St. Mark’s Square; Venice, Italy

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”
– Benjamin Franklin

Must-Bring items I brought on my trip (and would recommend to you):

  1. iPod (loaded with your favourite music)
  2. 1-2 books to read and stay entertained / somewhat educated
  3. Travel journal & pen(s) – Tip: Jot down in list-form the main events you did and places you saw FOR EACH DAY of your travels.
    Reason: So you can remember what you did & saw many years from now.
    Take this seriously and be disciplined.
    How I did it: On the tour bus during travel days I would update my travel journal while “on the road”. I would do anywhere from 2-3 days at a time. You will forget if don’t capture this with good ‘ole fashion pen and paper, as you are seeing SO MUCH all at once, all the time!
  4. Money belt (To avoid pick-pocketing. You would be surprised how common this is in Europe. I wore mine and this never happened to me.)
  5. Backpack to put essential items in: iPod, camera, food, drinks etc  (I left mine on the bus to avoid having to carry a honking bag around all the time)

Other tips: (free of charge, you’re welcome)

– Go to a travel agency to help with the details of your trip planning (airline booking, events and excursions booking, extra brochures/info pamphlets for your destination…including pictures to INSPIRE you!!) I went to Marlin Travels and they were excellent! I received awesome service & very helpful tips.
– Check your bank account…can you actually afford this? Do you have the money for this? (If not, you may need to come up with some “creative financing” to get you there!!)

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”
– St. Augustine

IMG_3967Acropolis (meaning, “high point of city”); Athens, Greece

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Europe – Part 2

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City Walls in Dubrovnik, Croatia

 

“Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.”
– Pat Conroy

 

For this trip I went by myself to have a solo adventure. I met up with other people on my tour group, as well as other crazily-psyched travellers along the way at each of the destination stops. I went with the tour group, Contiki. Known for its party culture (as I apparently found out), the partying scene wasn’t what I was going for; rather, it was to see the world in general, and as much of Western Europe in particular.

 

Here is a map of where I went:

contiki

 

 

These are some of the thoughts and words that describe my trip to Europe:

Before:

  • Adventurous
  • Exciting
  • Exhilarating
  • Taking a risk
  • Planning + research & planning + research
  • Time to put “real life” on hold
  • WHERE AM I GOING TO COME UP WITH ALL THE MONEY?!?
  • Who do I go with??
  • Time to pack &: Consolidate, consolidate, consolidate!

During:

  • Time of my life
  • Unreal opportunity
  • Sleep? Who needs sleep…I’ve got places to see!!
  • Breaking my comfort zone & ingrained personality style
  • My index finger seems to be in a fixed, permanent position from constantly taking pictures
  • So much to see and take in
  • There isn’t enough time to fit everything in!
  • Thought process: “Go, go, reflect, go, go!” (repeat)

After:

  • I don’t want to come back!
  • Is there ANY way to extend this trip??!
  • Definitely the trip of a lifetime
  • Opportunity to share with my kids about this trip (as my Dad had done with me when he travelled Europe)
  • So many memories that will last a lifetime
  • TONS of pictures to look through
  • Wow! I just saw 19 countries in Europe in 5 weeks
  • When can I go back?

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The Louvre – Paris, France

 

 

Upon the return to my native land, Canada, I noticed I had caught a serious bug from all my travelling. No matter how fervently and desperately I tried to cure it it just never went away. This “bug” as I have heard it coined, is more prominently known as the “Travel Bug”, and more people than I know have been infected with this. The more folks I talk to who have done their share of travelling have confirmed the undeniable fact: IT WILL NEVER GO AWAY!!!

The question is: Will you allow yourself to catch this adventurous & contagious “bug”?

Europe – Part 1

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Santorini, Greek Isle

“Not all those who wander are lost.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

 

I had the great and awesome opportunity to travel Europe last summer and wanted to share my experiences. These next few blog posts of my trip will be part of a series. This is Part 1 & I hope you enjoy it.

This trip to Europe was, without a doubt, the trip of a lifetime!

I’ll start with some of the events that led up to my travels:

I had spent (served) six years in post-secondary education (4-year Business degree at Trinity Western University & 2-year IT diploma at SAIT) + fourteen years (pre-school – Grade 12) for a combined total of 20 years in school & I needed to get off the continent of North America & explore the world!

Graduating last spring, April 2012 from SAIT, travelling had always been a dream of mine & something I had always wanted to do.

I had wanted to travel after I completed my 1st degree, but never made it a priority to see it happen, mostly due to costs. This was a big motivation in seeing my travel adventures come to fruition after my 2nd educational completion.

I decided now was the best time to go: I was FINALLY finished school, had not started working in “the real world”, I was single, and without a ton of responsibilities I thought it was now or never! (Besides, when else will you ever get 6 consecutive weeks off in a row at work, with your boss graciously holding your job for when you return?!?) I rest my case.

 

By The Numbers – Trip Overview:

  • # Memories to last a lifetime: Infinite
  • # Pix’s taken: 7,000+
  • # Countries visited: 19
  • # Weeks in total: 6
  • # Weeks in Europe: 5
  • # Weeks in London: 1
  • # Continents explored: 1
  • # People I went with: 1
  • # Regrets: 0

26 Reasons To Do a Triathlon

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“The starting point of all achievement is desire.”
– Napoleon Hill

Would you ever do a triathlon?

It’s a simple question, yet most people would not compete in a triathlon because they are scared of the swim portion. And by scared, I mean terrified. They say they don’t know how to swim or couldn’t possibly swim the length that is required.

The swim is generally regarded as the hardest part of the tri for most people. And it’s easy to see why: Swimming is the most technique-oriented sport of the trio & most people aren’t naturally great swimmers. So rest assured, you are not alone.

These objections were what I initially thought, until I decided to do something about it. I resolved I would not let this fear keep me from competing in a triathlon. What did I do? I got a pass to the U of C pool and swam LOTS (the majority of my tri training consisted of swimming), got a swim coach, looked at swimming videos on YouTube and analyzed the best swimmers in the world (I.e. Michael Phelps & other elite Olympian’s) to see how the swim is supposed to look and tried to emulate their form each time I was in the water. To answer these swim objections for a tri race, there are 2 options: In the pool or open-water. I would advise starting off in a pool for your first triathlon and if you enjoyed it, then do an open-water swim for your second tri. That’s what I did & it worked out great.

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“The first and best victory is to conquer self.”
– Plato

With this is mind, and as per the title, here’s the list:

26 Reasons To Do a Triathlon:
 

  1. It’s summertime and winter will soon be here
  2. Opportunity to try a new sport
  3. Have fun and feel great about yourself
  4. Do something you’ve probably never done before
  5. Take advantage of playing a sport outdoors, in Mother Nature’s wonderland  
  6. Challenge yourself and be stretched in new ways
  7. Expand your outlook on life & sports
  8. Learn more about yourself and what you’re made of
  9. Know what you believe about yourself
  10. Meet lots of new people who, like you, are athletes and enjoy sports
  11. By learning a new sport you create new neural pathways in your brain to help you think better
  12. Conquer 3 sports all at once (kill 3 birds with 1 stone)
  13. Excellent workout and great for your health, sleep and well-being
  14. Releases stress and allows you to think better and more clearly
  15. Is a legal alternative for dealing with stress and frustration in your life
  16. The cross-training is excellent as you get to work & develop different muscle groups
  17. Accomplishment of a personal goal
  18. Personal satisfaction in seeing your success from beginning to the end, during the high’s and low’s
  19. Be a part of the journey (the goal) en route to the destination (not the goal)
  20. Life lessons you learn: Time prioritization, goal setting, money management, personal accountability 
  21. What you also learn: Character, integrity, dedication, suffering, struggling, discipline, follow-through & commitment
  22. Crossing the finish line on race day is the reward and the memories will last for the rest of your life
  23. Opportunity to share your story with others
  24. To be inspired and inspire others
  25. Now is the time to get fit and be more active
  26. Why not?

Triathlon #2 – Recap

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“The rewards for those who persevere far exceed
the pain that precedes the victory.”
– Karen Bliss Livingston, Elite road racer

This has been a summer of triathlons for me. I just completed my 2nd triathlon of the season this past Sunday, August 11, 2013. The race was held in the beautiful lake community of Lake Chaparral, in south Calgary. Although I wasn’t able to have trained as much as I had hoped, due to injuries, it was a great experience and I was able to improve on my overall time from the last triathlon I competed in earlier this summer.

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Here are my thoughts for the Post-Race Recap:

Swim:

– It was long! Apparently, the swim went longer than expected as we ended up swimming 900m instead of the 750m
– The first half started off well and I was swimming great, but gradually my arms began to get tired
– It was a different experience swimming with fellow competitors in my heat all at once. My strategy was to stick to the outsides to create more open-water to swim in
– It was my 1st time swimming an open-lake swim

Bike:

– Went really well
– It was my strongest event and the sport I was the most confident at
– On my 2nd lap I took advantage of the downhill’s and pushed myself to gain faster speeds to compensate for the big uphill coming back
– The hill wasn’t as bad as I had anticipated; being a long, gradual uphill I was on my highest gear near the top but kept pushing myself
– The volunteers were really supportive and encouraging throughout the run course & helped me keep going

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“Belief triggers the power to do.”
– David Schwartz

Run:

– Had calf cramps on both legs at the beginning for several minutes after transitioning from the bike to run
– Was a long 5 km and I was really hot due to high temperatures (high 20’s Celsius)
– There weren’t any markings on the run which made it difficult to know where I was along the run portion
– Finished the race strong and ran with all my energy through the finish line & almost took out a competitor guy who finished just in front of me & had stopped right after he had crossed the finish line

Transitions:

– Secured a spot at end of rack closest to the exit, a prime location
– Had clothes and equipment well-organized to ensure a smooth & quick transition for both T1 & T2

Overall:

– Completed 2nd Sprint triathlon of the summer
– Beautiful location for the event at Lake Chaparral community
– Achieved my 2 goals for this race: 1) To finish and 2) Beat my 1st triathlon overall time (which I did by over 6 minutes)

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“Never underestimate the heart of a champion.”
– Rudy Tomjanovich

Summer Triathlon – Part IV: Post-Race Reflection

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“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill

Over this past May long weekend I raced in my 1st triathlon. It was held in Airdrie, and at 6:30 am on a Sunday morning it was raining – slowly at first and then gradually coming down faster. Fortunately, the rain held off and made for an amazing race day. I really didn’t know what to expect. I had one goal in mind: To finish, and I was able to cross the finish line! Completing this triathlon has been a personal goal of mine and has been 2 months in the making. I learned a lot through this journey & this is an accomplishment I am really proud of.

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Here are the statistics and timing results:

  • Overall time = 1:40:18
  • Finished 53rd out of 98 people
  • Tri breakdown:
    – Swim 750 m = 20:08
    – Cycle 20 km = 51:38
    – Run 5 km = 28:32

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“You can keep going and your legs might hurt for a week or you can quit and your mind will hurt for a lifetime.” – Mark Allen, six-time Ironman Triathon World Champion

Post-Game Analysis:

  1. Swim
    – Went better than I expected, thanks to all the training
    – Felt I was well-prepared and the swim went quicker than I thought
    – Helped having a volunteer count my lengths so I could focus on each stroke
  2. Bike
    – Was windy in some areas, but in one stretch the wind was with me & I was ripping at top speed!
    – Really glad I had a road bike, versus a mountain bike, as it made for a much faster and enjoyable ride
  3. Run
    – I was told my legs would feel like Jello after the bike ride, so I allowed for my legs to warm-up in the first few hundred yards and “touch the ground”
    – The 2nd & final lap was hard as it was the last leg of the race and I was running out of energy
    – Crossed the finish line and finished strong
  4. Transitions
    – Had a great spot in the transitions area at the front so I could exit the bike and run events quickly & efficiently
    – Was well-organized and had all my gear in place and ready to go

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What I learned from this event:

  1. It pays to get to the site early to secure a good spot in the transition area
  2. Importance of pacing myself. From the start I had a marathon mentality versus a sprinters mindset as I had a big race ahead of me
  3. Rain – didn’t even plan for this! But was flexible with Mother Nature, and in the end it didn’t rain but was cool and overcast which made for ideal racing conditions
  4. Having my family there to support and cheer me on was huge (& they took awesome pictures!)
  5. During the run I noticed other athletes encouraging each other and I did the same. This helped me keep going, especially on the final lap
  6. There was one quote I thought about during the race: “Suffer the pain of discipline, or suffer the pain of regret.” This helped me press through at each stage of the race
  7. Crossing the finish line was quite an achievement and was a culmination of a lot of hard work, training, belief in myself & determination to finish the race. And what an awesome feeling it was!!!!

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I’ll end with some quotes that inspired me leading up to this tri:

  • “Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.” – William Faulkner, American writer and Nobel Prize laureate
  • “The pain is temporary, the memories will last the rest of your life.” – Navy Commander John Collins & founder of Ironman
  • “If you set a goal for yourself and are able to achieve it, you have won your race. Your goal can be to come in first, to improve your performance, or just finish the race; it’s up to you.” – Dave Scott, US Triathlete
  • “The difference between the impossible and the possible lies in a person’s determination.” – Tommy Lasorda, Major League baseball player
  • “Don’t measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should accomplish with your ability.” – John Wooden, #1 UCLA Coach of All Time

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  • “Just go out there and do what you’ve got to do.” – Martina Navratilova, Professional Tennis player
  • “Sports creates a bond between contemporaries that lasts a lifetime. It also gives your life structure, discipline and a genuine, sincere, pure fulfillment that few other areas of endeavor provide.” – Bob Cousy, NBA player
  • “If you can believe it, the mind can achieve it.” – Ronnie Lott, NFL player
  • “To succeed you need to find something to hold on to, something to motivate you, something to inspire you.” – Tony Dorsett, Dallas Cowboys running back
  • “The more difficulties one has to encounter, within and without, the more significant and the higher in inspiration his life will be.” – Horace Bushnell, American Congregational minister and theologian

Thank you to everyone for your encouragement & support for me in this endeavor!

Summer Triathlon – Part III: What I’m Learning

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“An athlete cannot run with money in his pockets. He must run with hope in his heart and dreams in his head.” – Emil Zatopek

 

“What are you learning?” I was asked this recently by one of my sister’s. With less than 3 weeks until the proverbial gun goes off, I have been through several experiences en route to this competition. Through this process there are several aspects I’ve learned along the way. Five stand out in particular, and they are:

  1. Injuries: Importance of pacing myself
    – In each of the 3 tri sports I have injured myself as a result of pushing myself too hard during the training sessions. This results in losing days when I could be training as it takes time for the injury to heal
    – To avoid this I’ve learned to ease in to each sport and focus at only going 70% instead of 100%
  2. Ask questions: Talk to other people
    – Seems obvious, but this can go a long way in understanding the sport, training ideas, diet, health & equipment suggestions
    – I talked to family, friends, health experts, elite athletes, those who have done triathlon’s before & found their insights to be quite helpful
  3. Get a coach: For those extra “training eyes”
    – This will help you improve in those sports you’re hoping to get better in to feel confident in your abilities & give you that competitive edge
    – For me, I got a swim coach to help with my stroke and technique, and it has been invaluable to my growth as a swimmer
  4. “Competitive sports are played mainly on a five-and-a-half inch court, the space between your ears.” – Bobby Jones

     

  5. Write your goal: Create a goal and WRITE IT DOWN – Something powerful happens when you write down on paper what’s important to you. It shows you’re committed to see it through to completion, intentional to follow-through at each stage, and focused to do what needs to be done – My goal is: “I want to compete in a Sprint Triathlon on Sunday, May 19, 2013 in Airdrie”
  6. Invest in equipment: Essential for your best performance
    – I went out and purchased a good pair of swimming goggles that were comfortable to wear and would prevent water from getting in my eyes while swimming
    – For goggles to fit well they’re supposed to stick to your face, on both eyes, after you let go from holding them up to your face. I went through 10+ goggles at SportChek & Swimco until I found the right fit
    – The goggles I’m using from Swimco are the “Aqua Sphere Vista Smoke Lens”

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